The White House’s ambitious agenda on gun control, immigration reform, and, perhaps, even climate change is a sign that President Obama believes he locked up precious political capital with his reelection and intends to spend it quickly. But that isn’t welcome news to many of the Democrats who need him the most in the short term–the seven Democratic senators in conservative states facing tough reelection bids.
Just one week into the new year, Obama has already hit some unpleasant stumbling blocks with his own party. On gun control, the White House is now calculating that it will be “exceedingly difficult” to pass broad measures, The New York Times reports, a sharp U-turn from its optimism heading into the new year. Senators from the president’s own party are the ones giving him trouble over his nominee for Defense secretary, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, with one of the president’s most partisan backers privately expressing doubt about whether he’ll support his nomination.
And on Friday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., announced his retirement, making it even more likely that a West Virginia Senate seat will turn Republican for the first time since 1959. Rockefeller’s decision to step down early may give him more flexibility to vote with the White House on its pet initiatives, but it creates major problems for the Democrats looking to succeed him. The White House’s planned agenda for the coming year is awfully inhospitable for a Democrat looking to keep his or her distance from the national party. (Notably, newly minted Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Michael Bennet, in a statement, said he is confident the party will elect an “independent-minded Democrat” to a seat.)